TAMPA, FL — Stageworks Theatre, Tampa’s longest-running professional theater company, begins 2023 with two newly announced gifts totaling more than $2 million, providing a strong foundation to secure the theater’s long-term future.

Mercury Advisors, the developers of Grand Central at Kennedy, gifted Stageworks its current 99-seat, first-floor theater at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Suite 151. The gift is valued at $2.45 million.

Additionally, the Tampa-based Frank E. Duckwall Foundation Inc. provided a $10,000 grant for the theater company to convert to more energy-efficient stage lighting.

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The gifts come as Stageworks celebrates its 40th anniversary season. The milestone will be marked during the theater company’s annual gala on Feb. 4.

“We are extremely grateful for these amazing gifts,” said Karla Hartley, Stageworks’ producing artistic director. “They signify the confidence these organizations have not only in our outstanding performances but in Stageworks’ vision for the future. As we continue to expand our fundraising efforts, these donations will help ensure that Stageworks continues to inspire and educate Tampa audiences and produce groundbreaking new works for many years to come.”

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Late last year, Mercury Advisors decided to sell its first-floor retail holdings, but chose not to include the theater to ensure Stageworks continued to have a performance space. Stageworks has leased the theater from Mercury Advisors since 2012.

“Mercury Advisors have been steadfast supporters for the past 10 years and we cannot thank them enough for their generosity in offering and facilitating this transaction,” said Hartley.

“Owning our theater will help us fulfill our potential, especially after the challenges of the pandemic, which impacted arts organizations around the world,” said Jennifer Scher, chairwoman of Stageworks Theatre’s board of directors.

Prior to moving to Grand Central at Kennedy, Stageworks performed at a variety of venues including a Ybor City storefront, Hillsborough Community College, University of Tampa’s Faulk Theatre and The Straz Center.

Funds from the Duckwall Foundation will be used to transition Stageworks’ current lighting board from incandescent to LED lighting, which is more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, and will help reduce costs.

Stageworks begins the third production of its 40th season in February with the performance of “The Smell of the Kill.”

Stageworks Theatre’s mission is to ignite the human spirit and be a catalyst in eradicating intolerance through performing arts and education. In addition to six performances each season, Stageworks provides acting and improvisation classes and workshops. Its partnership with Academy Prep brings drumming classes to students at three campuses to support its overall learning, and the theater company has also provided its drumming and arts education curriculum to students in the juvenile justice system.

Over the years Stageworks has been honored with numerous local and regional awards for best theater company, best actor and best director.

The theater company will celebrate its 40 years of providing challenging and insightful theat34 during the Our Cheers to 40 Years Gala on Feb. 4 at the Floridan Hotel, where Stageworks’ founder, the late Anna Brennan, will be celebrated posthumously. Cocktails will be served at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 8 p.m. The event will include a silent and live auction, entertainment and dancing.

To purchase tickets to the gala, or learn more about Stageworks Theatre’s upcoming productions, membership options and community outreach, visit www.stageworkstheatre.org or go to Stageworks’ Facebook and Instagram pages.

isabella Baquerizo

Note To Self Opens At Parachute Gallery

Isabella Baquerizo‘s solo exhibit, “Note to Self,” will open Thursday, Jan. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Parachute Gallery, 1624 E. 7th Ave., Ybor City.

Baquerizo is a digital illustrator who works under the Instagram handle @awyeahizzy. Currently living in New York City, she was born in Ecuador and moved to Southwest Florida when she was 15 years old.

Baquerizo captures everyday moments between conversations, relationships, feelings and concepts that impact her, and recreates them to make those experiences more tangible.

“I want to capture conversations with strangers, overshared feelings, and the beauty of everyday moments that provoke profound ideas and inner thoughts. I write these down, illustrate them, or journal about them, Baqerizo said. “I love revisiting these moments or feelings years later, remembering what I was going through, or how much I’ve grown. Discovering that my friends do the same thing made me feel so human. Even though these notes are deeply personal and specific to the unique experiences of those who wrote them, by illustrating them, I give them new meaning—a shared, intimate and vulnerable feeling that becomes universal.”

Also happening at the Kress Thursday, Jan. 26 from 7 to 9 p.m. is the grand reopening of @tempus_projects with two new exhibitions, DJ sets, a live performance by @k.l.iii, work by Debra Radke and Jenny Carey at Gratus, “Ghost Orchid: Fever Dream” by @cm0lina and the Department of Contemporary Art Tampa FL will present a screening of Immokalee, U.S.A. (2008) at Screen Door micro-cinema.

Etched Feather Exhibit

Birds have mesmerized and inspired artists for centuries. Etched Feather: A History of the Printed Bird will examine the works and artistic processes of John Costin and other bird artists and devotees, whose creations capture the essence of winged beauty.

Etched Feather: A History of the Printed Bird will be on exhibit from March 4 to Oct. 15 in the Wayne Thomas Gallery at the Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Water St., Tampa.

Click here for tickets.

Also, be sure to visit the history center at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, for a special members-only reception with Brad Massey, Ph.D., of the Saunders Foundation Curator of Public History. Memberships are $65 for individuals and $95 for a family. RSVP to [email protected] or 813-675-8988.

HeART of Ybor
Left is Lynn Shaffer’s piece, “Stepping Out,” and right is Joan Garcia’s pencil drawing, “Waiting on the Trolley.”

Artists With HeART

Congratulations to the HeART of Ybor Community Art Contest winners. The contest is hosted annually by the Ybor City Community Redevelopment Agency, inviting local artists to submit works depicting the heart of historic Ybor City.

Winning first place this year was Chase Parker with “Timeless,” a lenticular oil painting on wood.

“My family has a long history in Ybor, and I wanted to represent that in this piece,” Parker said. “I used the iconic Ybor picture of the Ritz in the early ’60s and recreated the exact image in 2021 as a reference. As your focal point changes, you’ll notice some subtle changes to the buildings but, for the most part, the history of Ybor still remains intact. I really enjoyed this piece, and it showed in the finished product. Although this one sold, I will never forget it. It sold at the Gasparilla Festival of Arts which was my first large showing of my art and what would turn out to be one of the best days of my life. It was such a success that I quit my career of 21 years and decided to do art full-time. This piece essentially changed my life.”

Lynn Shaffer snatched the second-place prize with her artwork, “Stepping Out,” a 16- by 20-inch painting with ink.

“Ybor city has its own style and flair, a unique vibe that makes it stand out beside the huge city of Tampa,” Shaffer said. “‘Stepping Out’ depicts the vibrant nightlife in a fun and quirky way. Under bright city lights, a giant rooster with his pal on his back are stepping out on the town, both enjoying a local cigar.”

Herbert Davis garnered third place with “Casino,” which he says is “just the latest in a series of paintings I have created depicting buildings in Ybor City, where I was born and raised.”

And Joan Garcia received the Committee Choice Award for “Waiting on the Trolley,” a 16- by 20-inch colored pencil drawing on Stonehenge paper.

“Waiting on the trolley takes you back to the heyday of the streetcar system,” Garcia said. “Starting in Ybor City, the streetcar system traverses through Ybor into downtown Tampa. Our family rode the original cars many times and today’s passengers can ride these replica streetcars for free. This trolley is sitting at the end of the line near Centennial Park. The passenger is waiting for the conductor to finish switching the electric connection to return to downtown Tampa.”

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